Famous manga artist and longtime sumo fan Yaku Mitsuru gave his candid opinion on the current state of sumo. A return to training and a lifting of the social media ban were among his wishes for the sport. The following are his words:
“There’s nothing we can do about the cancelation. This situation is more difficult than when Haru Basho was held without spectators, since the sumo world has seen cases of the virus, inter-stable training has been prohibited, and butsukari-geiko discouraged. Rikishi can’t perform for the fans if their sumo senses are off. It causes unsightly sumo. I think when a tournament is held, the training up until now will be for nothing.
“The sumo association made the decision to switch the July tournament (from Nagoya) to Tokyo and hold it without spectators. If they are going to hold that tournament, they need to give the “go ahead” to resume training as normal. The current plan is for opening day to be July 19th. Considering how much time there is to prepare for this honbasho, I’d like to see the training go back to normal by the end of June at the latest. It doesn’t do much good to train with restrictions.
“What about the environment the wrestlers live in? I think the most isolation is found in their sleeping spaces. In most sumo stables, salaried wrestlers have private living spaces. I think there are methods of isolating using those rooms. It’s important to look at the quality of training, but it’s also good to make sure the big stables maintain a stress-free environment.
“The way life is for sumo wrestlers currently has not been communicated to the rest of the world. Several tournaments ago, Abi’s social media posting became a problem, so they banned personal social media (for the wrestlers). But I think they should lift the ban now, especially since Natsu Basho is canceled. Many fans are wanting an inside look at the sumo world.
“As a sumo fan, just one empty basho feels gloomy and I get upset. With professional baseball still unable to start up again, there are TV channels that broadcast past games. I’d like to request the same for sumo.”
Yaku Mitsuru is a 61 year old comic artist and sports fan from Tokyo. Yaku, along with fellow celebrity sumo enthusiast Demon Kakka, wrote “Katte ni Ozumo Shingikai,” a book about sumo (only in Japanese).